Saturday, January 7, 2017

Do-San Applications, Part 1

Now that I've discussed straight punch defenses from Chon-Ji, and roundhouse punch defenses from Dan-Gun, I'm going to detail some basic arm and shoulder locks you can get from the third form, Do-San. Locks are technically a part of Taekwondo but, like the throws, they are rarely taught. You can find several in the Self Defense (Ho Sin Sul) section of the Encyclopedia. Of them, the locks I recognize are:

Standing armbar (ikkyo)
The S-lock against a same-side wrist grab.
From the Self-defense section of the
Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do.
S-lock (nikkyo)
Wrist twist (sankyo)
Outer-wrist throw (kotegaeshi)
Rear shoulder lock
Gooseneck lock

The latter two are common come-along locks from police, but the first four seem to indicate a Jujitsu influence. It should be pointed out that Gen. Choi said there were three responses one can do to a grab: a strike, a release motion, or a joint lock/break; and of these, striking was the fastest and most likely to work. This is probably why the locks never gained much recognition as practical self-defense, but rather something you should do if you don't really want to hurt your opponent.

So are locks in the forms? I would argue yes; or at least you can make locks out of the motions. Here are some simple locks you can get out of Do-San, in case you're tired of the usual punch-block-kick applications.

Rear shoulder lock

You may have been taught that for the first four moves of Do-San, you block an attack and follow up with a reverse punch on one side, and then turn around and do the same to a different opponent.

But wait a minute. We still haven't dealt with our first opponent. He's not going to go down with one hit.

Two-handed hammerlock. 
Use the first outer-forearm block not just to block but to grab your opponent's arm. After punching, use the chamber for the next move to clasp your right arm around your opponent's right arm (middle image above). As you turn around (half steps) and perform the outer-forearm block, you are actually pushing out on your opponent's shoulder. Grab and pull their shoulder into towards your hip while you push their wrist towards the back of their head (second reverse punch). This creates a two-handed hammerlock. The pulling of the elbow can be done from the inside (the most literal way to do the form) or you can switch to the outside (see right image).

From this position, you may step into the back of their knee as you bring your back leg forward as in the form.

If you want something more advanced: you can transfer to a one arm hammerlock, or "chicken wing" lock. If you have the practice, you can actually get into the chicken wing lock right away, as in the example below.

1) Circle away an opponent's attempt to grab
2) Reach under opponent's arm and grab their elbow.
3) Drag opponent's elbow forward while also blocking their wrist
4) Keep dragging their elbow forward as you half-step to turn around, then slip your other hand up and through: so that the arm is below their forearm and above their shoulder

Advanced application for Do-San 1-4
Although I call it "advanced", it's actually a simple come-along lock used by police and bouncers. One detail you want to remember is to make sure you're pressing down on your opponent's elbow, not triceps, with your hand, as this will give you more control. And, of course, you can add in the first punch.
Block, punch, rear shoulder lock

Standing arm bar
So fun fact: it seems like every school does the release motion in Do-San differently.

I guess it didn't help that General Choi himself changed the official version at least once.

To keep things simple I'm going to stick to two versions: Choi's revised version (upper right), in which you twist the palm but never actually pull the arm downward, and the version I practice (lower left) where you pull the hand down as you shift your weight back, which is fairly close to the original version (upper left).

One version of the application would go as so
1) Opponent grabs your same-side wrist
2) Grab their wrist with your other hand (supporting hand), and use spearhand thrust to release.
2) Put opponent into an armbar by pressing down on the back of their elbow ("release motion")
3) Pull the opponent's arm out while pivoting, maintaining pressure on the arm. (turning 360-degrees into backfist), possibly causing your opponent to fall over.

Spearhand thrust as release. Source.
Dropping into release motion as an armbar
Spinning into backfist to aid the armbar. Gifs from Dan Djurdjevic.
The spin version is a good way to control an otherwise strong opponent. In the original version of Do-San, it appears that the release motion (which was pulling the arm down) and the spin were done together rather than as two separate steps.

What about Choi's version where the arm doesn't drop? I know that Choi stated the application of this was to escape a grab, but to me it looks reminiscent of using the palm to control the opponent's elbow.

Using the palm to pressure the elbow.
A less literal interpretation of the spearhand thrust is that it's used to straighten the opponent's arm before the armbar. Your arm will never go completely straight, but the form might be having you practice generating enough force to straighten the opponent's arm before putting them into the lock.
Spearhand thrust to straighten opponent's arm
Finally, the spearhand thrust can be used as a strike in response to a grab, which will also straighten an opponent's arm by forcing them backwards: spearhands are good for putting pressure on the solar plexus or the neck.

Overhead shoulder lock

Here's an old-school application to the two rising blocks. After blocking an attack, come forward and wrap your other arm around the opponent's elbow (chamber for 2nd rising block). Circle behind their legs, raising their elbow while pulling down their wrist (2nd rising block). To take them to the ground, just keep walking forward and pull them down. This is sometimes called a figure-4 lock.

Now, there's a big debate as to whether the rising block actually works as a block or whether the attack in that image above is realistic. The lock technique, however, can be used in other situations. In the video below, the overhead shoulder lock is used in response to a choke.


The 45-degree wedging block is commonly invoked as a defense against a roundhouse punch. And that's fine: it works well as one. But another application I was surprised to find was locking an opponent's wrist.

Commonly referred to as nikkyo thanks to Aikido, the S-lock is a potent wrist lock that is easy to create. You see it used several times in the Self-defense section of the Encyclopedia of Taekwon-Do.

The S-lock (nikkyo)
The lock works by twisting the opponent's wrist in the same direction as with the standing armbar, and then trying to push the opponent's hand in their arm. This bends their arm and forces their elbow to rise. So to complete the lock, all you need to do is prevent that elbow from rising with your other hand.

Follow up with the front kick to the face (as in the end of the gif) and, if necessary, the two punches. The two punches could also be used to grab a weapon that the opponent is holding.

Now, I doubt this is the intended application for the wedging block set, because the two punches at the end seem incidental. I'm a fan of Russ Martin's interpretation, which uses the front kick as an o soto gari after blocking a roundhouse punch. The one thing I would add is that after using the front hand punch as a head hook, the back hand punch can be used to crank the opponent's head.


In case you can't tell, I prefer applications that end with incapacitating your opponent in some way, usually with a takedown, but sometimes through a lock or vital strike. Hence why ending a set with a simple reverse punch doesn't appeal to me.

Find more applications for Do-San here.


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